Giving Thanks……AGAIN

Just a few more days until Thanksgiving……..and while I’ve always loved Thanksgiving…….this holiday has taken on an even more significant meaning to me over the past few years. Thanksgiving 2020 marks three years since I finished up my chemo. So much has happened in those three years……I went on to complete radiation and get a clean bill of health. Every cancer patient’s favorite three letters are NED – No Evidence of Disease! I’m overjoyed to say that I have continued to show no evidence of disease since then! Praise God!

That’s not to say that there haven’t been some hiccups along the way……but all in all, I have done exceptionally well.

Thanksgiving of 2017 was definitely one to celebrate. I was more than thankful to have twelve rounds of chemo in my rear view mirror. Mostly, I wanted to be able to taste all the food I loved again! 🙂 I remember whining a bit that year because I was struggling with some mouth sores. It didn’t take my mom long to put me in check……and remind me how blessed I had been through all my treatments. She was right – but I was still not happy about the mouth sores!

Celebrating Thanksgiving that year was very humbling for me. I didn’t have to look far to realize just how blessed I had been, and that I had oh, so much, to be thankful for. Thankful to have half of my treatments behind me…….thankful to have survived chemo with minimal collateral damage……thankful to have been blessed with the support of friends and family…….thankful for AHHHmazing doctors and nurses…….thankful to live in such close proximity to a world class cancer center…..thankful for friends and folks I didn’t even know praying for me…..and thankful that God had healed me and allowed me the privilege to still be here.

I’ve struggled some this year with lymphedema in my left arm and breast. Along with that came a bout with cellulitis – but my doctors reacted quickly, got me in PT right away and later had me outfitted for an in-home lymphedema pump that I use daily for an hour of lymphatic massage. I had been doing really well until the last few weeks, and it flared up again……so I’m back in PT several times a week from now until the first of the year…….wearing that dang compression sleeve every day…….and a different compression sleeve at night…….and still doing the 60 minutes lymphatic massage an hour each day. It’s hard to believe that removing one dang lymph node has caused all these problems. Well, honestly, radiation did a number on my lymph nodes as well. In the grand scheme of things, I’ll take the excess lymphatic fluid over cancer ANY day!

So this week, as I celebrate my 3rd “anniversary” of completing chemo…..I have much to be thankful for! 2020 has been a most unusual year – and mostly we are all quick to list off the many ways that 2020 has sucked……and it definitely has…….but there’s been a lot of good things about 2020 as well. I know for us, the pandemic forced us to slow down and spent much more time TOGETHER at home, which has been really nice! We’ve had to be creative about how we do things and it’s forced us to think outside the box! I challenge each of you to focus on the good that 2020 has brought into your life.

I pray that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy time with your family and friends that are like family!

Here’s a link to my 2017 Thanksgiving post…….

https://temporarylumps.com/i-sucker-punched-chemo/

Be blessed!

Sonja

Colossians 3:15-17 The Message

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Rainy day thoughts….

Well, I don’t know what the weather is like where YOU are……but here in NC, it’s rain, rain and MORE rain. Goodness. I read a Facebook post last night that said….. “This rain is getting Biblical. Animals are pairing up and I feel the need to buy a boat .”

So what to do on a lazy, rainy Saturday? Well, it seemed like the perfect time to share a blog post.

Big news on the book front. I will be having my second book signing on Sunday, March 3rd, 2019 at 1792 Beer Co at 106 N. Main Street in Roxboro, NC from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. I’m so excited that Zack and the folks at 1792 are allowing me to use their wonderful space to share my book! Books and beer – what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, huh?

If you haven’t gotten your copy of my book yet – here’s the link to Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Temporary-Lumps-Journey-Perseverance-Triumph/dp/1791379184/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=temporary+lumps&qid=1550945610&s=gateway&sr=8-1-spell

If you’re local, you can pick up copies of the book at Truth Books & Gifts at 201 S. Madison Blvd, Roxboro, NC.

From the very beginning of this blog, I said that I wanted to be as open, honest and authentic as possible about my cancer and treatments, etc. Sharing all of that – especially while in the MIDDLE of the fight, was never a problem. Now that I have celebrated my 1 year anniversary of COMPLETING my cancer treatments and my life is back to “normal” (whatever the heck that is)……I feel that I can speak candidly about the past year.

***FULL DISCLOSURE – I am speaking from my own PERSONAL experience…..in no way am I trying to say that this happens to EVERYONE or that OTHERS will feel this way……I’m simply sharing what I know to be TRUE for me.***

For me – the 12 months I spent “fighting” my cancer (surgeries, chemo, radiation, follow-up appointments, etc) were much easier than the 12 months AFTER finishing up my treatments. How’s that, you ask? Well – I knew what I was battling. We determined what/where the cancer was…..we developed a plan of action…..and we went to battle right away trying to destroy the nasty demon that had invaded my body. My doctors were able to give me a heads up on what was coming, how my body may react and what they would do to help me through it.

So after chemo and radiation, I started on a 10 year relationship with Tamoxifen – the hormone therapy med prescribed to me. I went from spending MONTHS being cold and wrapped up in a blanket to feeling like a volcano within 24 hours. Honest to goodness…..I started having hot flashes THE VERY NEXT DAY once I started taking Tamoxifen. I remember one night sitting at the dinner table…….and a hot flash came on from out of nowhere……I was sweating bullets and literally feeling like I may pass out. Apparently I looked awful as well because Hunter was like “mom, are you okay”? And so it began…….random hot flashes both night and day. And they say I need to take this drug for 10 years? Lordy!

Then came the joint pain. Again……compliments of tamoxifen. One day I was fine……then I sat down on the couch for awhile and when I tried to get back up later – it was horrible! My bones/joints hurt all over……and when I walked, I truly looked like I might be 100 years old. And just like that – the joint pain and stiffness became a regular part of my life.

I had pretty severe neuropathy in my hands and feet during chemo……and I’ve been taking vitamins/supplements for the past year in an effort to eliminate the neuropathy. Crazy – I seem to have it worse in my left foot than anywhere. What does neuropathy feel like? Well, for me – it feels like my foot is numb while at the same time feeling like it may be frost bit (as if I know what that feels like – but it’s what I IMAGINE it would feel like). For instance, on this cold, rainy Saturday – my left foot is giving me a fit. I have cabin socks on my feet trying to keep them warm – but honestly, this is going to sound CRAZY – I have found that the BEST relief for me is to rest my foot on the back of our dog, Bella. The heat from her body warms my foot right away and offers me so much relief. So if you ever see me with my foot on/under the dog, you’ll know I’m trying to doctor on my neuropathy.

As far as my hands go, the most challenging thing for me is picking up small things or getting change out of a cash register/money drawer and using a computer mouse. The tips of my fingers are constantly “numb” feeling, but I don’t really notice it anymore. But when I’m trying to get change for a customer from the money drawer – and it takes 4 tries to pick up the pennies – it gets a little frustrating.

I’ve been back at work since August of last year. I’m working at an insurance agency 3 days a week. I work every Thursday evening (from 3:00pm – 10:00ish) at the Old Country Club Steakhouse – as a hostess/cashier. So I basically have 2 days a week at home. I’ll be honest with you – most often, I’m happy to be at home on those days off. I have found that it truly takes me using those days to “recover” and “recharge”. And plenty of times on my days off, I literally do NOTHING. I was beginning to think maybe I was just lazy or unmotivated – but Thursday night when I was working, I talked with a friend and fellow survivor and she said she experienced the very same thing. Her friend said “some days she acts like her butt is attached to the chair with Gorilla Glue” – and I just laughed and said “YESSS _ THAT’S IT EXACTLY!!!!” I find that on the days I feel good, I try to pack in as much LIVING as I can, because I know that it is most likely that I may have a day (or 2) of just being exhausted and doing NOTHING.

By far, the absolute WORST part of all of this is CHEMO BRAIN and the lasting effects of it. It pisses me off ALOT – but mostly when I’m at work – and my brain knows what I want to say – and it’s all right there – but somehow the connection between my brain and getting the words to come out of my mouth – there’s a HUGE delay at times and it completely infuriates me. Like when my boss asks me to quote some insurance for Mr. Johnson. And I spend an hour or more typing his name NUMEROUS times into different applications…….and a few hours later my boss asks me for the quotes on Mr. Johnson and I completely draw a blank……like who in the hell is Mr. Johnson? I know it makes me look like an idiot!

Or when we’re all in the kitchen at home cleaning up after dinner and I attempt to say to my son “hand me that” (and I want to say TOWEL)…..but instead I say “hand me that…………that……..” and I’m looking straight at it and know what the crap it is but the word just won’t come out of my mouth. Finally, I give up and say “hand me that damn blue thing right there”.

Please don’t think I’m confessing all of this for any sympathy or pity……I’m not. I’m just sharing this information to explain why FOR ME – LIVING after cancer has been much harder than FIGHTING the cancer. And I realize that may not be the same for everyone. And I know that others have expressed the same sentiments to me as well. Maybe it’s because I don’t KNOW what to expect.

But I don’t tend to talk about this often. It’s just the way it is…..and I understand that it’s the cards I’ve been dealt. At the end of the day, I’m very thankful to have won my battle with cancer and still be here! It’s all about perspective…..and I choose to continue to see the glass as half-full!

For any other cancer survivors out there, I’d love to hear your take on “life” after cancer. I know everyone’s experience is different – but your experience is valid, no matter what your experience.

So I hope you enjoy this lazy, rainy Saturday. I admit, I’m still in my PJ’s, bundled up in a blanket on the couch……with my foot on my pup…..enjoying some down time! What are you doing today?

Blessings,

Sonja

2 Corinthians 12:9 New International Version (NIV)

But he said to me, â€śMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.